The American bishops during their recent visit to Rome discussed the issue with Benedict XVI and various Vatican officials. Last fall Bishop William E. Lori announced the closing or merger of several parishes in Bridgeport. The restructuring was the result of a three-year study conducted by the Bridgeport pastors who considered five indicators of viability: Worship; Education; Service; Community; Administration.
As reconfiguration seems inevitable several issues must be considered. First, are the parishioners brought into the process at the beginning and actively involved in reaching a final determination to close or merge the parish? Secondly, the parish is primarily a spiritual community of the faithful, not a territorial division of the diocese or a collection of buildings. People develop strong ties of affection for their parish and will suffer a great sense of loss if it is closed. What steps can be taken to preserve that community and to avoid destroying it by dispersing the members? Thirdly, will the proceeds from the sale of the buildings and grounds go directly to the diocese or be distributed among the surviving parish or parishes? Similarly, will the liturgical vessels, furniture, fixtures, etc., be distributed to another parish or parishes? Finally, what will you do if your parish is closed? Where will you go?